All square at Highbury
The top 2 sides from the Sky Bet League 2 collided as Fleetwood Town played out a 1-1 draw at home against league leaders Chesterfield. Town made 5 changes to their starting line-up after their 4-0 triumph against Crewe Alexandra in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, Jeff Hughes and Dean Howell just a couple of those returning to first team action.
Town kicked the game off attacking the Percy Ronson Stand as both sides attempted to secure an early control of the game. The first effort of the game fell to the home side as Stewart Murdoch tried his luck from long range, his optimistic shot flying way over the crossbar.
The Cod Army were knocking the ball around fairly well in the opening exchanges with only the final ball lacking in quality. Chesterfield were sitting back, soaking up the pressure as Town had more and more opportunities to break the deadlock. Lone striker Jamille Matt was looking sharp as he brought his teammates into the game, Junior Brown the next to try his luck from range. The winger's strike was comfortably dealt with by Chesterfield's number 1 Tommy Lee.
On the 9 minute mark, the hosts had the first clear cut chance of the match to take the lead. Stewart Murdoch delivered a delightful cross to Antoni Sarcevic who could only fire his header over the visitor's goal.
The Spireites posed their first real threat down the right wing as Eoin Doyle ran directly at Dean Howell with the left back deflecting the subsequent cross out for a corner. The corner was wasteful and Town had a chance to counter immediately. Jamille Matt was played through but was soon swarmed by Chesterfield defenders. In an attempt to salvage the attack, Matt tried to find a teammate but his pass was intercepted easily.
There was no doubt that the first 15 minutes of the match went to Fleetwood. Admittedly, the visiting side were creating a series of half chances but nothing to test Scott Davies as of yet. Winger Doyle was proving to be a handful down the right flank, a consistent test for Dean Howell and Ryan Crowther.
Just past the 25 minute mark and Town were threatening once more. Jeff Hughes delivered a pin-point cross into the the path of Junior Brown but his scuffed finish didn't threaten the goalkeeper Lee. Instead, Liam Cooper nearly trickled the ball into his own goal but the defender remained composed to clear the danger.
4 minutes later and Jeff Hughes was threatening again, this time with an attempt on goal himself. A clever free kick routine culminated in the Northern Ireland man firing a low drilled effort which was brilliant parried by the Spireites goalkeeper.
Straight up the other end, Chesterfield almost took the lead and they would have if it wouldn't have been for the superb reflexes of Scott Davies. Tendayi Darikwa shot from 25 yards and the ball was heading for the top corner until Davies diverted the effort away from goal.
Jeff Hughes went into the referee's book after persistent fouling much to the midfielder's frustration. Captain Ryan Cresswell picked up a caution minutes before following a high foot offence.
The visitors were starting to come in the game as the minutes passed as the contest started to become more 'end to end'. Chesterfield were finding more and more space to piece together attacking moves which Town were desperate to stop.
As the first half approached its conclusion, Nathan Pond had the ball in the back of the net after a Jeff Hughes free kick. However, Pond was deemed to be in an offside position and the goal was disallowed by the linesman as the 1st 45 minutes came to an end.
The 2nd half started with a frantic pace and the visitors had the best chance of the game to go ahead. Tendayi Darikwa had his effort from range parried away by Scott Davies with the rebound being blasted wide when it looked more difficult to miss than score.
Highbury was shadowed by dark clouds for the 1st half which had cleared now as the sun proved to be a distraction for the players. Midfielder Jeff Hughes however unfazed and his dribble put Town in a good position after Junior Brown was fouled 30 yards away from goal. The free-kick was met only by a tame effort from Nathan Pond which fell kindly to Tommy Lee in the Chesterfield goal.
10 minutes into the 2nd half, Chesterfield took the lead. A corner was whipped in and defender Liam Cooper knocked the ball past Scott Davies. The momentum was now completely with the visitors and if it wasn't for Davies' fantastic save it would have been 2-0.
Junior Brown got on the end of a pass from Antoni Sarcevic and his curling effort was saved well by Lee again with just over an hour left to play. A few minutes later and Sarcevic nearly bundled the ball home to put Town level. Sam Hird was on hand for the visitors to scoop the ball away from goal and out for a corner. The resulting corner saw a goal mouth scramble which nearly saw Ryan Cresswell peg the leaders back to 1-1 but the ball just wouldn't go in the net for the Cod Army.
Town were throwing men forward at will in an attempt to secure at least a point from this top of the table clash. The Spireites were just about dealing with the Cod Army's relentless attack. David Ball was introduced to the game after 67 minutes as the hard-working Stewart Murdoch was replaced. Ball was straight into the action and almost got himself on the scoresheet.
Just a minute later though and Town had a penalty after Antoni Sarcevic was brought down. Up stepped Jeff Hughes who beat the keeper but also beat the goal as his strike flew over the crossbar, much to the dismay of the Highbury faithful.
The miss unfortunately looked to have dejected Town as Chesterfield were playing with confidence once again. The final ball which had eluded the home side in the first half was eluding them again with 15 minutes left to play. Junior Brown got into a great advanced position down the right flank but his cross missed all available targets in the penalty area and the chance had gone.
With 10 minutes to go, 'Big' Jon Parkin was introduced after his 2 goals in the past 2 games, Ryan Crowther making way. With the aerial presence the side has, it was disappointing for Town that they couldn't take advantage of the numerous set pieces they had throughout the game.
There was a late chance for Jamille Matt as his header went over and it looked as if it just wasn't to be. That was until Jon Parkin fired home a priceless equalizer. Junior Brown cut inside to deliver a great cross into the penalty area and the ball fell to Parkin who smashed his shot into the back of the net as Highbury erupted.
With a minimum of 5 minutes added time indicated, the comeback was a genuine possibility. Jeff Hughes tried his luck from range but was unable to test the goalkeeper late on and that was that. A evenly contested battle from the first whistle to the last ended all square.
Substitutions- Murdoch (Ball), Crowther (Parkin), Sarcevic (Blair).